Enlightenment—the Next Generation of Linux Desktops

The soon-to-be-released version of Enlightenment, E17, offers a lightweight, yet stunning, alternative to KDE and GNOME.
gOS Space 2.9—the Lesser Extreme

Hardware requirements are 700MHz CPU, 384MB of RAM, 8GB disk space, graphics card capable of 1024x768 resolution, sound card and Internet connection.

There was a lot of hype over gOS when it was still being discussed in forums. It was thought that Google was creating a Linux distribution of its own. But, this turned out to be in error. gOS is a polished distribution that utilizes certain elements of Enlightenment for its beautiful special effects. It also uses the GNOME desktop and Compiz—thus, the slightly more modern hardware requirements. Space 2.9 is geared toward the 100,000,000 MySpace users. The revolutionary space dock used by gOS closely resembles the Mac OS X dock with stacks that open and swerve to reveal further options beneath.

Figure 2. A Look at gOS

gOS is an excellent system for the modern digital life. It includes everything users ever would need in an Internet system. However, gOS falls short in its full usage of E17. There are too many other elements in play where E is neither seen nor heard. For instance, E's Engage dock is replaced with a gOS creation. Plus, E's eye candy has been overridden by Compiz Fusion. So, where is E? In my opinion, gOS is a Mac copycat, and that's not a bad thing. In fact, I think it's a welcome twist to the numerous Windows look-alikes in the Linux community. So, if you're looking for a fast, fun to use and Mac-like distribution, try gOS.

Elive—the Further Extreme (Where Debian Meets Enlightenment)

Hardware requirements are 300MHz CPU and 128MB of RAM.

Elive is an attempt at a pure E17 desktop experience. It also includes the former E16 stable release; both are available at boot. I really enjoyed the E17 experience using Elive. It's small enough that it can be run comfortably from the live CD without installing it. Although some features, such as playing DVDs, were not enabled. The Elive CD is the fastest live CD I have tried to date, which must be due to the inherent speed of E.

Figure 3. A Glimpse at the Elive CD

Elive has a very polished look and offers two themes: night or day. I did not experience any crashes while using the system, although don't expect everything to work without problems, as E17 still is under development. If stability is what you prefer, you can try the E16 desktop, but E16 is not as pretty.

Elive contains its own configuration panel, called Epanel, which enables users to control the entire E system—adding and removing packages, configuring hardware (Elive has great hardware support by the way) and customizing the overall look and feel of the system.

If you want a true E experience, try Elive. My only issue with Elive is that it requires users to pay a minimal fee before downloading. The default is $15 US, though this can be dropped to $5. And yes, it is possible to download it free of charge, but to do so, you must send the developers an e-mail asking for an invitation code.

My only only concern with Elive is that Enlightenment is not ready as a full-featured desktop experience—some features seem unfinished. But, Elive is a wonderful awe-inspiring walk down the path to Enlightenment.

So, if you want to try E17 exclusively, with no added components from other window managers/desktops, don't hesitate to download Elive. After all, $5 will aid Elive's developers to continue their noble work.

OpenGEU (Formerly Geubuntu)—Somewhere in the Middle

I first should mention that OpenGEU is not an official Ubuntu derivative. It is based on Ubuntu and shares its repositories, but it's not Ubuntu. OpenGEU's subtitle explains the philosophy behind this newer distribution: “when a GNOME reaches Enlightenment”. OpenGEU's ambition is to fill in the missing parts of E17 with the working parts of the GNOME desktop or Xfce. And, it does this very well. This hybrid system is a fully functional Enlightenment desktop with the power of Ubuntu's GNOME desktop melded with the effects of E17. For example, the file manager missing from E17 is filled with the Xfce Thunar file manager, and it works without a hitch.

Figure 4. OpenGEU

OpenGEU includes two themes: sunshine and moonlight. Both are exquisitely beautiful with animated elements—typical E style. In the sunshine theme, the sunbeams appear to shine forth at certain times, and under the moonlight theme, the Enlightenment E logo apparent on the moon reflects within the ripples of an ocean of water at regular intervals. Users can change between themes at the press of a button. Other themes are included, and users can download additional themes from get-E.org.

Figure 5. OpenGEU's Moonlight Theme

Figure 6. OpenGEU's Sunshine Theme

OpenGEU not only borrows Xfce's Thunar file manager, but it also borrows its panel. And, the bar across the top of the screen is from GNOME. But, hidden beneath the scenes is E. I am delighted with the mix. The distribution is not without its bugs, but E's performance does not appear to be altered in the least through the addition of various GNOME and Xfce components. OpenGEU is a glimpse of what we can expect from the 1.0 E release.

There was one strange “bug” that I discovered when clicking on a file from my desktop. Instead of defaulting to the Thunar file manager, E's own file manager opened, and it left a bad taste in my mouth. I was humored by the wiggling icons, but the total experience is not finalized. It lacks a certain appeal—that look of completeness. I can understand why Thunar was chosen in its place. Perhaps EFM should be removed from OpenGEU entirely.

OpenGEU is different enough to be noticed by family and friends. It's easy to use, simple to install and fanatically fun. You can expect E's total functionality with animations, fading and shadows. I used OpenGEU for quite some time for the purpose of this review, and it is the most pleasant E experience I encountered. This is one distribution I'll definitely be watching, and it's the distribution from which I am writing this review. If you are looking for the ultimate E experience, try OpenGEU. You won't be disappointed.



Comment viewing options

Select your preferred way to display the comments and click "Save settings" to activate your changes.


Anonymous's picture

I've been trying to create a linux tutorial to present at my university but I never had any thing to base it on. This might be a good outline for it.


Misafir's picture

Good UI is the art of making a usable / intuitive system.

Abiword or Emacs anyone?

grabur's picture

I was introduced to Linux as a way to recycle and sustain old hardware. I was excited at the thought of a Linux Desktop. FVWM and TWM won me for the speed. KDE and Gnome were slow and unstable by comparison.

All I want is a stable, snappy platform. I don't even care for icons. In OSX th e control panel is two clicks through the menu (one if you place it on the dock). Sub menus in my book are a no no. With Gnome, I have to click around menus while waiting for some naff effect. Hate it.

Drop shadows. How crude.

If you are using old hardware, and I think that means 450 MHZ < 128 MB Ram, you won't get on that well (believe me) with Linux distros (bar Damn Small and Puppy), I've tried. Opera is the lightest full blown browser. Firefox is huge, Openoffice is Massive.

What have fast cpus and massive GFX cards given us? All that computational power for not alot in my opinion(though you can rebuild a system fast.)

How about a fast terminal based environment to work in instead? Could we not build Ncurses apps and style them, like you dress a webpage with CSS?

We don't want eye candy at the expense of usability. I only have Compiz on in Gnome for the inverse screen feature and zoom. Most websites I invert the colours because the white blinds me. And in Opera, I just turn it all off, and go for high contrast, it's much nicer.

The great thing about the early window managers, is that they offered the chance for something different, something innovative. Gates talked about a 3d Desktop as a concept early on. Games, Phones and PDAs offer decent, different, intuitive desktops - or should I say launchers?

OSX gets it right with it's subtlety. I want to be able to launch an app and switch between programs with speed. I want to be able to rotate and add and remove displays quickly. I can't help thinking the mouse is useless compared with typed text and keyboard shortcuts (Many new GUI based programs forget to even add them.)

Don't get me wrong E17 sounds good, but why is it faster, could Gnome or KDE learn some of these tricks? How fast is the CPU in an iphone, how fast does it render? What is so different between Gnome and FVWM? Is the bloat and lag hidden in Multi Processing, SVG graphics, XML Parsing, Unicode and i18n?

2D effects sound like a CPU killer, isn't it better to use GFX cards for transparency and scaling if they are there?

It annoys me that the Linux desktop appears to play catch up in some areas, while Windows just appears to edge itself towards a cliff. For example you can't even cut and paste, drag and drop consistently between apps in Linux (though it's got better). Win98 you could do all that, and there was also the web based (active) desktop. Yes you laugh, but watch as Google re-imagines that.

Good UI is the art of making a usable / intuitive system. A Sprinkle of eye candy on top is fine. Gnome is great, as it's stable and no frills, though they could steal a few ideas from Apple. If the admin programs in Windows were all grouped together into a panel (like Win 3.1) and I could get to notepad quickly, I might use it.

I know you can tailor XYZ desktop and distro to do what you like. Those of us without much time, who hop between, and maintain computers, would probably rather a great Desktop that just worked out the box. I guess that needs to suit everyman: the power user, the noob and the ones who like shiny things.

Xfce any one

Beloved's picture

Well if you working with older hard ware and KDE and GNOME arnet cutting it for your old machine, have you looked into Xfce. Its built to run on older hardware alot easier. If your an Ubuntu kind of person check out Xubuntu. Its got it built in already and should work really well. If your not much a fan i would look into Damn Small Linux. It also is built for older machines so you wont want to chunk your pc out of the Empire State building window everytime it crashes becuase it shouldnt. Ive heard good things about these things so why not check it out?


grabur's picture

Yes tried Xfce.

A few years back I worked on a project recycling old hardware into internet kiosks, for a community centre.

In the end after trying out various distros, (300mhz machines), I ended up not using a window manager, and hacked an install of Firefox and Suse. Suse because it was great at recognising hardware.

The landscape moves so fast. You could now do the above using SLAX, XFCE, Firefox and probably a Firefox Plugin, I had to hack firefox quite a bit to make it work.

I have also worked for an environmental organisation, and have endeavoured to recycle as much old hardware as possible, and cut costs. So I've looked at many, many distros.

I tried Zenwalk on an older laptop and a workstation; I'd recommend it.

But going back to the post. Is E dramatically different, or is it all in the aesthetics? Wouldn't these rob the CPU of precious cycles on old hardware?

Enlightenment Sucks

Max's picture

Any Mouse based window GUI that doesnt have a simple way to change the mouse button from right handed to left hander use, is not very enlightened, (oh yea? go ahead take your mousepad and try your left hand with it - takes about 5 minutes before I shift-alt-backspace back to ubuntu) oh BTW their forums stink too, not very open to give feedback, so it smells of elitist coding. Which means, they really do not want feedback from new users, and they think that their way is the only way to develop the desktop. the left handed mouse button thing is the perfect example, you have to rewrite a config file to change it.

Um if you just go to the

Anonymous's picture

Um if you just go to the conf panel you can select left or right handed mouse.